It began in the creative minds of a summer camp board of directors, but it officially began for CWS when Pam Burnham, representing the Pilgrim Lodge United Church of Christ camp in West Gardiner, Maine, contacted me a couple of years ago and said, "We want to feature CWS at camp next summer. Can you help us work this out?" Of course I said, "YES!" and now we are engaged in an exciting initiative with summer church camps across New England.
At Pilgrim Lodge we provided resources and training for the camp deans and counselors and made several trips during the summer to do presentations and activities with the campers. Every Tuesday evening, the whole group gathered to make CWS Kits, learn about helping others and get involved in making a difference in the world.
One week we did a virtual hunger banquet around the dinner tables. In the full assembly, later that evening, I asked the campers what they thought about having only one dollar to spend on their daily food. One boy raised his hand and said, "We pooled our money. We could buy more of the good food that way and then we shared it!" We talked, watched CWS videos, sang camp songs and then closed by dedicating the CWS School Kits they had made that week.
At the end of the summer, Pilgrim Lodge had made 341 CWS Kits of all different kinds. In addition, they donated over $5,400 for processing and handling.
Back at our office, our staff began planning how we would spread this initiative to other church camps in our region. We accepted an invitation to Silver Lake Conference Center in Sharon, Conn., to do a program with the campers last year. We talked about water in the global village, watched a video on building sand dams in northern Kenya and went outside to carry buckets in a relay race. Granted, much of the water ended up on the campers, who impressed us with their concern for world hunger and their enthusiasm to get involved.
This year, Silver Lake named CWS as one of three summer mission projects. Their goal: make 500 School Kits. To support the project, Amy and Heather did a program with counselors during training week and went back to spend a day with campers. This year's program included "What do you See" from the new Hunger Is Everybody's Business resource. They took counselors and campers outside for a reality relay, where participants had to make soccer balls out of plastic bags and string. The camp will also donate a share of the funds raised for missions over the summer to CWS.
This summer we are also involved at Covenant Hills Camp in Vermont. Next summer we'll be at Horton Center in New Hampshire. Our camp partnerships are generating enthusiasm and new connections everywhere. So if you want get some excitement into your summer program, get involved and spread the good news about CWS while you're at it!
Rev. Bert Marshall is the Field Director in CWS's New England Region.